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Topics - Gary Schnitkey

Your Turn / Why Support a Denomination?
May 10, 2014, 10:45:57 PM
My question is:  Why should a lay person support a Lutheran denomination.  By way of background, I grew up Missouri Synod, switched to ELCA after a job move caused a Missouri Synod to be no longer within driving distance, and more recently have been in a NALC church.  All of the churches I attended were good, preached about Jesus, and did what churches should do.  Except perhaps for the ELCA church I left before attending NALC, I left on my former churches on good terms.

Here is what I observe:

1.  The denominations are fractious.  I have watched two denominations deal themselves heavy blows:  Missouri Synod in the late 60s/early 70s and ELCA more recently.  I watch Pastors have the equivalent of food fights which, at the least, are not edifying and do some damage.  A recent minor example is the Wilken affair reported on in these pages.  In the 2000s, the ELCA assemblies for the central south Illinois synod were wonderful affairs if you wanted to watch the equivalent of slow motion car wrecks.  Without denominations, much of this factiousness would not exist, or would become local. The ELCA would not have had a sexual social statement.  The right wingers in the Missouri Synod wouldn't have a denomination to complain about. 

2.  Its not clear to me what a denomination does for a church.  True, finding Pastors would be problematic, but those issues could be worked out and networks between churches and seminaries would arise. Very little of the educational material (VBS or Sunday School) come from denominations now.  Why does a church need a denomination? (Having said that, NALC personnel were extremely helpful in my current NALC church).

3.  The time of denominations may have passed.  Many Protestant denonomations are in decline, probably for good reasons.  Both the Missouri Synod and ELCA are in decline. Many of the current Christian innovations are occurring outside denominations.  Given current information technologies, I don't see much of a role for a denomination.

4.  It is difficult to identify concrete recent accomplishments of Lutheran denominations.  (I know the churches have accomplishements, but those accomplishments would likely occur without a denomination.)

From this, I simply wonder why I should care about denominations.  Why should I support sending money to a denomniaton?  I sometimes think Lutheranism would be better off without denominations.

Tell me why I am wrong.
Your Turn / Saltzman on ELCA convention and Rome
August 01, 2009, 06:05:46 PM
Saltzman had some good thoughts on the upcoming ELCA convention over on First Things

Here is an excerpt:

"Frankly, the creation of one more Lutheran church body in America is a dauntingly depressive possibility. I'm not entirely certain I want anything to do with it . . . unless we're talking about a ministerium organized to open dialogue on becoming a Roman Catholic affiliate, congregations, pastors, the whole caboodle, eventually seeking full communion with the bishop of Rome. If Rome cooperates, this ought to be pretty easy. Just think of us as inactive members seeking reinstatement. In my congregation, an officially inactive member is welcomed back to full fellowship by making a contribution and receiving Holy Communion, and sometimes we've been known to even skip the contribution part. Couldn't the Church of Rome handle that? There might be a few subsidiary issues to settle, but get us inside first and everything else becomes manageable. What is needed here is a brave archbishop or two, together taking cognizance of what is about to happen to the ELCA, and stepping forward as potential shepherds. Can't really call it stealing sheep if the previous shepherd has run off, can you?"

Your Turn / Diversity
August 16, 2007, 08:50:40 PM
It would appear that the ELCA is going to push to be a more diverse church as witnessed by Mr. Hanson's recent remarks (see,CST-NWS-luth26.article).  Recent research by Robert Putnam suggests that "social capital" erodes with more ethnic diversity.  The work is summarized by Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal (see  Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw, distrust their neighbors, and to expect the worse.  Surprisingly, Mr. Putnam presents a possible assimilation model as large evangelical congregations.

Henninger's article is worth the read and a google of Robert Putnam will get you links to sites with much more details on his work.  Overall, it calls into question ELCA diversity strategies.
Your Turn / ELCA Membership Numbers
August 01, 2006, 10:52:01 PM
The ELCA has released membership numbers for the end of 2005 (see for a table of historical numbers).  Membership was 4.85 million at the end of 2005, down 1.6% from the 2004 level.  The 1.6% decline is the largest decrease in the eighteen year history of the ELCA. Since 2002, declines have all exceeded -1% per year (-1.21% in 2002, -1.95 in 2003, -1.09 in 2004, and -1.62 in 2005).  Prior to 2002, the largest decrease was -.69% occuring in 1988.

At this point, it could be inferred that something happened around 2002 that caused escalating membership decreases.  The 2005 decrease further suggests that declines are escalating.  Membership in the ELCA is in near free fall.

The press release concernign ELCA membership is available at
Letters to the Editors / ELCA spending
December 24, 2005, 04:16:26 AM
I have been to the ELCA churchwide budget page ( and have reviewed the budgets.  This provides some useful information.  Projected expenses in 2006 for the national organization are projected to be $98 million.  Projected expenses for the program units are evangelical outreach and congregational mission ($20 million), global missions ($27 million), multicultural ministries ($1 million), church in society ($7 million), and vocation and education ($11 million).

Is there any place where I can find more detail on expenses?  I am specifically interested in measures on outreach and evangelism such as 1) how many new church starts by the national ELCA have been supported in the U.S. and 2) how many missionaries does the ELCA support.

Motives for asking this question are two-fold.  First, my pastor told me that the ELCA is supporting a record number of missionaries this year.  This is good, but can this be verified?  Second, I am critical of the social positions taken by the ELCA.  It would make me feel better to know that the national ELCA is, in fact, using funds for evangelism.  Outside of political advocacy, it is difficult to see a public face to the national ELCA.
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